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The Day the First Greeks Arrived in Australia

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Greek immigrants on their way to Australia in 1953. Credit: Public Domain

It was a day much like any other on August 27, 1829 when the first-ever recorded Greeks set foot on the continent of Australia.

They were seven convicted pirates who had plied their trade on the Mediterranean Sea and had been forced to serve their sentences on the continent of Australia on the other side of the world.

Later on, despite the fact that the Greek authorities granted them official amnesty, two of the men decided to stay there, thereby beginning the long history of the Greek presence in Australia. Their names were Antonis Manolis and Gikas Voulgaris.

The name of the ship that brought them there was also duly recorded. It was the British ship the “Norfolk,” and it brought a total of 192 other criminals, mainly from the United Kingdom, to the harsh continent to serve out their harsh sentence of “transportation.”

The voyage, which was undoubtedly a type of punishment in itself, lasted between 91 and 93 days and the captain was assumed to be Alexander Greig.

Greeks gradually and sporadically began to migrate to Australia later on, but the main wave of migration didn’t occur until after the Second World War, resulting in the large numbers of Greek communities in Australia we know today.

By any measure, the Greek presence on the continent has been a great boon to the country of Australia. We today must truly admire the courage of the two founders of its first Greek colony—even if they were ex-pirates—who so courageously chose to stay there, half a world away from home.

Greeks in Australia keep traditions strong

Numbering over 600,000, according to recent estimates, Greek-Australians are the seventh-largest ethnic group in Australia, contributing their culture, traditions, and language to the rich fabric of the country.

Melbourne, located in the state of Victoria, is currently the most concentrated center of the Greek diaspora, as it is the city that is home to the largest Greek population outside of Greece.

With as many as 400,000 Greek-Australians residing in the city, although some conservative estimates measure the community to just over 170,000, Melbourne is also home to the most Greek-Australians in the entire country.

Greek immigration to Melbourne itself has a long history, spanning back to the 1850s, when the region experienced a gold rush, inspiring a massive wave of immigrants from Greece.

Since then, Greeks in Melbourne have retained their connection to their culture and language. The city is home to the most Greek speakers outside of Greece, and it’s one of the most frequently heard languages on the streets of Melbourne.

Many Greek-Australians have also made a home in Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, as well, but the community in Melbourne is widely considered the most well-established in the country.

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